The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has expressed interest in supporting interventions to address the impact of climate variability and climate change on Ghana's cocoa production.
The Institute would partner with SNV Ghana to support cocoa farmers in how they can “best find a balance between intensification, adaptation and mitigation and identify short-and long-term risks and benefits” under the Cocoa-Eco Project, that SNV and the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union are implementing.
This 30-month pilot project, covering ten cocoa growing districts, is aimed at limiting the encroachment of cocoa plantations into forest lands and conservation of biodiversity by creating environmental awareness among cocoa farmers, especially on issues of land degradation and deforestation.
The Cocoa-Eco Project connects with the IITA's goal to reduce producer and consumer risks, enhance crop quality and productivity, and generate wealth from agriculture, by driving knowledge development and facilitating innovation.
The IITA is convinced that intensified and diversified cocoa farming systems can help to raise farmers' incomes, protect against biodiversity loss, enhance conservation efforts, and reduce rates of deforestation.
The Associate Advisor at SNV Ghana, Ernest Adzim, says the IITA will provide backstopping, build capacity at the management level and serve as the knowledge-base for the Cocoa-Eco Project.
“There is an area of technology where the farmers and extension officers can access extension services through the mobile and other electronic media, so we are expecting IITA and its partner Grameen Foundation when they come on board to develop this area to provide a platform where information can be made easily accessible at the farmer level,” he stated.
The IITA proposes to introduce a state of the art real-time cell phone-based data collection for high-performance monitoring and evaluation, scientific research and collective learning purposes.
SNV has already trained over 100 lead farmers drawn from 50 communities and 30 Internal Control Officers under the Kuapa Kokoo Limited, who have been in direct contact with the farmers on the fields.
Another activity will involve the training of credit officers manning district business development centres as well as business committee members and managers of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union.
SNV is also exploring partnerships with other local institutions to upscale the project.
Such future partners include Solidaridad, a forerunner of cocoa certification globally, which is supporting farmers to cultivate cocoa in combination with other trees for sustainable production.
The organization has distributed over 26,000 shade trees to farmers in 52 cocoa growing communities in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions. The farmers have also established cocoa nurseries to produce varieties of recommended shade tree seedlings.
The Managing Director of Solidaridad West Africa, Isaac Gyamfi said, “it is no longer sustainable to grow cocoa without trees.”
Increasing cocoa production demands expansion of area under cultivation, with the resultant effect of converting forests to farming systems which leads to a decline in carbon stocks.
Mr. Adzim says a baseline study would be carried out under the Cocoa-Eco Project to link the cocoa farmers to national programs on climate change, especially with the REDD+ which looks at reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh